When Hiring Staff, This Democratic Congressman Sure Can Pick ’Em

by Celina Durgin
First he hired a sex offender, and now he’s hired an intern who thinks sex offenders are funny.

A campaign intern for a Maine Democratic gubernatorial candidate won’t be fired for tweeting slurs against women, insults against religion, and sexually explicit material.

Ben Gagnon, an intern for Maine Democratic representative Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign, was “suspended indefinitely” after the Maine Republican party criticized an offensive series of tweets from Gagnon’s personal Twitter account. He had tweeted a collage displaying his history of obscene tweeting with the hash tags #TripDownMemoryLane and #LetsMoveOn, seemingly in response to criticism received before the Republican party complained and the objectionable tweets were deleted.

The content of the tweets included the c-word; a reference to “b****es and hoes”; several sexual and scatological tweets tagged #TweetsFromTheToilet; religious slurs involving Jesus and the Bible; and sundry others.

This intern has appeared prominently on Michaud’s campaign website and in pictures with Michaud. Gagnon was also featured in the Maine Democratic party’s convention video and quoted on its Twitter account. He blogs for the state’s most influential Democratic blog, Dirigo Blue.

David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican party, told National Review Online that “the mainstream press has only said that he posted profanity on Twitter. That isn’t the point. He said discriminatory comments that should be immediately condemned by an editorial campaign.”

Despite the shocking tweets, Michaud’s campaign manager has opted to suspend Gagnon rather than fire him, even though interns have been fired for comparable or even more pedestrian misconduct. Two years ago the conservative think thank Maine Heritage Policy Center fired Leif Parsell, a state-house reporter, for an alleged history of making online racist comments. The think tank thanked the liberal bloggers who made the allegations.

Michaud’s campaign, in contrast, seems to be content with a slap on the wrist. In a statement to the Portland Press Herald, campaign manager Matt McTighe wrote, “The language used in this young person’s Tweets cannot be defended and do not represent the view of the campaign,” adding that Michaud’s staff would review the campaign’s online policy for volunteers.

Sorensen considers this response lax and called it “a matter of overconfidence” in Michaud. “The Democrats think they can get away with anything and don’t have to be accountable to anyone,” he says.

Michaud has a problematic staffing past. His former chief of staff was forced to resign from a previous political job for campaigning while he was supposed to be doing government work. Michaud also oversaw the hiring of a convicted sex offender, who, Michaud said, “brings a lot of knowledge” to the position.

In his congressional campaigns, Michaud has also been accused of mixing campaign and official government business. Democrats maintained that his trip to a New Balance manufacturing facility in Norridgewock had been official business. But Sorensen posted a Facebook screenshot of a message from the Michaud for Congress Campaign showing the congressman visiting the factory and posing with the U.S. trade representative and New Balance executives. 

Michaud is challenging Paul LePage, the Pine Tree State’s Republican governor, in November. Michaud has polled ahead of LePage in most opinion surveys. 

— Celina Durgin is a Franklin Center intern at National Review Online.

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